Web links related to the Back of the Book program of November 27, 2000

It's Thursday, 11/30/2000 19:14:19, and I think this web page is done. No guarantees that there won't be some sort of update to it, of course. I got to the mail on this program. I've posted the E-mail that I read on the air as well as some replies. You'll even find a topic I didn't get to on the air here, a special for listeners who are also Web page viewers.

And of course you should probably take a look at the Pacifica Theft Page to find out what's going on with the current Pacifica crisis.

WBAI was being Web cast when I checked it out at 6:24 PM last night. So you should be able to hear the Web cast from porus.com.

So I'm trying to fix an older computer and I needed some parts. I ordered them a couple of weeks ago now. they should have arrived at the beginning of last week, unfortunately United Parcel Service (UPS) can't deal with it.

I've had adventures with United Parcel Service in the past. This time I don't know why they're not bothering to deliver. They claim to have tried to deliver the package twice already, but I was home both those times and they never rang the bell, and there were no yellow slips saying that they'd been there. The puzzling thing is that this is only a two pound package, unlike the heavy monitor that I was trying to get delivered the last time. I suppose that the UPS driver(s) just don't want to be bothered doing the work is all.

It's amazing that this stolen election crap is still going on. On Sunday night Katherine Harris, who was the Co-Chair of the campaign for George W. (for Weasel) Bush in Florida “certified” that Bush won. The fact that not all of the votes were counted means nothing to her or her operators. Of course she's in line for a really nice job in the Bush administration. Shows how honest these politicians are.

When the Florida Attorney General and her cohorts went through the cynical ritual of signing the documents certifying the election there were close ups of the actual signing. Of course I noticed the pens they used. It was really a laugh! Turns out that they were using seriously cheap fountain pens. The following couple of postings from the newsgroup alt.collecting.pens-pencils should elucidate what stationery fetishists thought of this bit of drama. I've removed the names of those posting to protect the innocent.

> Did anybody else notice that the Florida attorney general and whoever the
> guy beside her was signed the election certification with a couple of
> sheaffer school fountain pens. The AG had a clear blue Sheaffer
> no-nonsense, and the other guy signed with a "cartridge pen."
> I got a little chuckle out of that.

I'm sure the scenario was something like this:
Secretary of State Harris and her compadre, getting ready to appear on TV throughout the country signing the certification, realize that they should use something snazzier, classier than the standard office Bic. They send an aide out to grab something; after 6 p.m. on a Sunday night in Tallahassee, he probably would have his pick of an Eckerd's, Walgreen's, and maybe Wal-Mart. Hence the Sheaffer No Nonsense (I was pretty tickled by that one) and the regular, cheaper Sheaffer fountain pen. Couldn't tell what the 3d person was using, though it was a ballpoint.

Sally, sometimes wondering just how much stranger my adopted home state can get!

And another wag wrote simply:

Almost fell off the chair at the site of the el-cheapo pens. Thought they would have had something top shelf for a signing to be seen round the world. ....

So, as reported on an earlier program, this imbecile French judge Jean-Jacques Gomez of the Superior Court of Paris has been considering taking action against the Web portal Yahoo! It's about some Yahoo! auctions of Nazi memorabilia. Such things are forbidden to be seen by French citizens, according to French law.

Even though a three member panel of experts reported back to the judge that Yahoo! could only block 90% of the French citizens from viewing the forbidden Web pages, Judge Gomez, who is apparently a moron, ruled that Yahoo! must block 100% of French citizens from seeing any Nazi memorabilia auctions on their pages or else they'll be fined $13,000 a day.

It is impossible to block 100% of the French citizens from seeing this stuff. This is another case of an idiot judge making rulings that are worse than clueless.

The issues involved with blocking are that you can block IP addresses.

Everything on the Internet has to have an IP address. In order to read this page you had to send a request to GLIB.COM for this specific page and let the web server that GLIB.COM is on know what your IP address is so that it could send back the requested data. You don't see all of the numbers because of the Domain Name Servers (DNS) that interpret addresses like GLIB.COM to IP addresses. Yahoo! could block all IP addresses that are allocated to French Internet Service Providers (ISPs). That would block 90% of the French people from seeing their Nazi memorabilia auction pages. But there are ways of getting around a simple IP address block.

There are American and other non-French firms operating in France. Most of these have their access through their home countries. This means that they have non-French IP addresses. So anyone using the computers of those companies can see the forbidden pages. And then there are “anonymizers.” An anonymizer acts as a proxy and allows you to hide your IP address and identity from the servers you're accessing. This is why there's no way to achieve 100% blocking of all French people from seeing the forbidden Yahoo! pages.

Well, I didn't actually get to this piece on the air, but I'm leaving it in here as a sort of a “Web Page Special.” The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has come out with seven new top level domain names. ICANN sounds more like an illicit back room deal making group than anything on the up and up.

As I was preparing this web page on Sunday night I received the following information from spacewarn.com, “A Major Solar storm is in Progress, ACE Spacecraft Solar Wind Observations indicate Condition Red. Trigger potential:214. kV Radio propagation is likely to be affected and Possible Aurora Borealis Tonight.” There's more at their web site.

Part of my stated goal for this program was to put a dent in the mail backlog. I did that. I'm still behind on reading the mail on the air, but I'm less behind than I was. We had physical letters, one of them rather long, from regular listeners, correspondents and contributors to the program Seth and “Sergio the Psychotic Postal Worker.” And then we had E-mail correspondence, which we show you here. We begin with some well wishes on my birthday and the 14th anniversary of Back of the Book.

Subject: Happy Birthday
Date: 04 Sep 2000 02:59:03 -0600
From: Jose
To: rpm@glib.com

I want to say a BIG happy birthday to you.I love to hear your show but god how i hate the time you go on.It is rare that i can listen to your show because i have to wake-up at 5:00 AM.I enjoy your talks on science and other things.the two pics are safe to look at so don't worry about it.ok i got to go

Your Friend & one of your thousand listener
The Gay Blade

Smiley Faces
doggie blow job

Subject: (no subject)
Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2000 17:10:25 EDT
From: Sharon
To: rpm@glib.com

Dear R. Paul,

Happy birthday, happy anniversary, happy etc.

Your pope-rant last night was right-on. Only recovering Catholics get that worked up about the church's machinations. What you need to remember is that the popes are the heirs to the Roman emperors, who routinely deified their predecessors in the hope that someone would do the same for them. Augustus declared Julius Caesar to be a god, Tiberius declared Augustus to be a god, Caligula declared himself to be a god -- well, that was against the rules, so they killed him. Anyway, I'm sure JP II is secretly hoping that one day the faithful will light candles in front of his statue and pray for relief from their bunions or whatever. It does seem ridiculously easy to become a Russian Orthodox saint -- I mean, if Nicholas II why not Rasputin?-- but in the Roman church the canonization process is designed to be even more difficult than amending the US Constitution, and I'm pretty sure it isn't supposed to be subject to political horse-trading -- one reactionary anti-Semite for every John XXIII, one Dorothy Day for every Ustache collaborator. This guy has been the King Kong of popes, leaving a trail of devastation in his wake. I wonder if the next one will manage to see the world in terms other than the old black-and-white, Cold War, the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend. Somebody should tell Wojtyla that most of the people murdered by his pal Pinochet were Catholics, too.

Best wishes for the next fourteen years and, since you probably won't read this for months, happy new year!

The Wicked Witch of the East (Side)

PS: Did you hear about Dubya Bush's official proclamation of “Jesus Christ Day” in Texas? Do you suppose the irony of celebrating history's most famous victim of capital punishment made any impression on him? And what the hell do they call December 25, Nieman Marcus Day?

Subject: fan mail
Date: Mon, 04 Sep 2000 20:49:50 EDT
From: Charlie
To: rpm@glib.com

Hey R.Paul - I love listening to Back Of The Book. It brings me back to the great memories I have of listening to Gene Shepard every night. I laugh out loud when you dis the pope or the cardinal. It absolutely cracks me up! Always look forward to the Sundays that you're on. I enjoy spending time at your website as well. Someday I hope to meet you. What the heck is wrong with BAI -- you should have a prime time show!!

I'm glad these folks like the program. I don't think I bear comparison with Jean Shepherd, and I actually do a different sort of radio from what he did. I do remember listening to him, however.

As for Back of the Book going to prime time on WBAI. Never happen! I'm lucky to stay on where I am.

Next we get some folks writing in about the program I did that mainly focused on pencils. The first letter writer is very knowledgeable about pencils because he used to run an office supply business. I could never do that. I'd just revel in the stock! It's sort of like what a mid-level drug dealer is always told, sell it, never use it!

Subject: what else pencils
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 03:08:31 -0400
From: Nathan
To: rpm@glib.com

At one time the major pencil manufacturers in the U.S. were Eberhard Faber 1st grade Pencil-“Mongol” Other Trade Names- Colorbrite, Pink Pearl & Comet typewriter erasers Eagle Pencil Company (Berol) 1st grade Pencil-“Mirado” Other trade names- Prismacolor, American Pencil/Venus 1st grade pencil “Velvet” Dixon 1st grade pencil “Ticondiroga” Other trade names-Prang A.W. Faber Castell 1st grade pencil “Black Flyer” All 1st grade pencils were of equal quality with Mongol being the favorite in the New York Area but in the south the “Mirado” was the stronger product. The original Eberhard Faber plant was in Brooklyn and the building with pencils on the facade still exists. They moved their plant to Pennsylvania and went out of business and was bought by A.W. Faber which might have been owned by Sanford at that time which is now a division of Neuwell Industries which also is the owner of Rolladex and recently acquired Paper Mate from Gillette as well as 'Liquid Paper'correction fluid.

Do you still want some number 1 pencils. I might have some number 480 which is the same as the #482 but round. While the lead is still good the erasers are probably dry. It has been 9 years since I closed my wholesale office supply business and have not totally been following all the mergers and acquisitions in the industry.

As I said on the air, I'd be glad to get some pencils from Nathan! I don't know if I've ever seen the ones he's talking about. They sound interesting — to a stationery fetishist like me.

Subject: Back of the Book/Pencils/etc.
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 03:37:18 EDT
From: Big6stringBass
To: rpm@glib.com

Hi R Paul,

First, I have to say I greatly enjoyed your show tonight. Unfortunately, over recent years WBAI has moved so far away from what it was in the years (approx. 1983-1995) I was a regular, hour after hour listener, that I have almost forgotten it's there and rarely remember to turn to the station.

Re your memory of a Martian-based SF book you read as a kid: we're about the same age (I'll be 50 next month) and I remember reading a “classic” in the early or mid-1960s called A Martian Odyssey by Stanley Weinbaum. At least I believe that's the correct title and author. Could this perhaps be the book you were trying to remember?

Re pencils: You can still use up some more of those old pencils stubs you photographed if you go to an art store a buy a pencil holder. Yes, they still make them, though with a sliding collar rather than a screw to hold the nub in place. And, much as I like working in graphite as an artist, can we expect a further exploration into the world of the colored pencil (usually pigment in a wax medium), pastel pencil (pigment in a clay medium), or even watercolor pencil (pigment in I don't know what, perhaps the same gum arabic they use to make watercolor paints)? Oh, and what about the wonders of the cartridge fountain pen? I love the way fountain pens write, but always hated the kind you had to dip into an actual bottle of ink. And if you really want to get exotic you can always look into silver point: as far as I remember this is a kind of pencil that uses silver rather than graphite to make it's mark. Used in drawing (but not often, at least probably not for quite a while) I believe the idea behind it is that as the drawn/written silver line ages it tarnishes and takes on a warm tone supposedly unduplicated by other media.

Re the speed of light, etc.: I don't know who else to ask this of, and I think the question came to mind the last time I listened to Back of the Book: when dealing with things on a subatomic/qauntum level can anything actually be more than theory. As you said tonight, the human mind can't truly envision what a photon or electromagnetic signal looks like, we can only visualize as metaphor, so can we actually know for certain what happens at these levels, or can we only observe the results and try to explain them in larger, everyday terms. (I vote for the latter, myself, but I'm not a scientist.) Example: the quantum leap. Because we cannot see the movement between energy levels does it necessarily mean there is the leap, or can it be that we are just unable to detect the movement? I realize that it can be mathematically explained, but isn't mathematics really just another human language, a use of symbols which may make concepts clearer to the human mind but is not in itself "real" and so is just as susceptible to manipulation as words to let us hear what we want? (Don't know if I made that clear, but it's a kind of half-formed idea in my head.) And, if at subatomic levels the very act of observation changes the observed (and at those levels the change appears to be magnitudes greater than at larger levels) how can we know what we're seeing has applications beyond that single observation? (Hmmm, enough rambling questions yet?)

As I said, the programming and leadership (dictatorship) changes at BAI in recent years have pretty much driven me from the station, but it is a great comfort to turn on late at night and find you still there. I hope you continue on.


The science fiction novel I was talking about on the program concerned a young boy who lived on Mars and was friends with Martians. By Martians I don't mean the Earthlings who colonized the planet, of which he was one, but the aboriginal Martians. I recall that in the novel the boy wore a respirator and skated along the frozen Martian canals.

This isn't “A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley Weinbaum, however, because Weinbaum's is a short story and what I read was a novel. Also, I think the science was more advanced than anything written in 1934, as Weinbaum's story was.

As for a pencil extender or pencil lengthener, Seth actually sent me one a couple of weeks after that program. I've been using it ever since. Fascinating item. I'm wondering if I can find some other types.

Fountain pens are a lot of fun too. I was raised with them and so filling up an old one from an ink well is not something I see as excessively burdensome. I especially like the effortless way they put ink on paper.

Research on sub-atomic particles is pretty well advanced these days, and all sorts of experiments supply empirical evidence of what the scientists have discovered. You're using the fruits of sub-atomic research every day with electronics. As an example, there's something called “quantum wells,” which are a relatively recent discovery, which I'm told are now used in CD players. As for mathematics being just another human language, it's a lot more mysterious than that. There is still debate about whether mathematics are discovered or invented. Either way mathematics allows us to figure things out in the physical world as nothing else can. The fact that extensive and specific education is required to really understand these things is only an indication of how far we've come over the millennia in our quest to figure out what the hell is going on.

Subject: Pencils
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 12:34:24 -0700
From: steve
To: rpm@glib.com

Dear R. Paul,

I enjoyed your 9/18 dissertation, especially the early history.

I too have memories of pondering a Dixon Ticonderoga #2 as I sat in Mrs. Shapiro's third grade class at PS12 in Jersey City. That was around 1956. I carry a dot of graphite in my left forearm since that time though I don't recall just how it happened that I got stabbed. The holes in the desks for inkwells were another memory that was refreshed lately on a visit to Washington Irving High School in Manhattan where the fresh air blower in the basement is powered not by an electric motor but by a steam engine !

Printed in the yellow paint of some pencils was “Joseph Dixon Crucible Company, Jersey City, New Jersey” along with a logo that was sort of a diamond and an X together. I remember asking “What's a crucible?” I don't remember getting an answer.

I recently learned that Mr. Dixon made most of his fortune not from pencils but from his crucible business. He had a connection near Ticonderoga, New York, where he mined his graphite. The high melting point of the carbon, 6000 degrees Fahrenheit (which is reallllly hot Centigrade) made it an ideal material for the his melting pots which could stand the heat of molten metals.

He also sold a very successful axle grease which contained graphite. Dixon was said to be able to reach into a batch of new pencils and come up with exactly a dozen every time.

A lesser known fellow in the pencil making biz was the father of Henry Thoreau of Walden Pond fame. Young Henry worked in the factory before deciding on a career in philosophy. I'm sure the income from pencils came in handy when Henry's tuition bills arrived from Harvard.

I m'self, am especially fond of Eberhard Faber 'Blackwing 602's. They're great for crossword puzzles and for marking balsa wood for cutting to make model airplanes. I understand they're out of production now. I haven't been able to find any to buy and I'm hoarding those I have left.

There's a great book about the pencil by Henry Petrosky.

In eighth grade or so, I discovered that if I hooked up a pencil to my heavy duty toy train transformer, it was fun to watch the smoke blast through the wood of the pencil before it became so hot that the wood pieces would separate at the glue joint and then just kind of peel back from the graphite core. I could then connect shorter pieces and make a carbon arc. It's a wonder that I didn't burn a thousand holes in my retinas or incinerate the house.

I've enjoyed your radio show for many years. I hope you continue to do it for many more. Thank you.

All bestest regards,
Hasbrouck Heights, NJ

Well, thank you for listening, Steve! Yes, I've been told where a cheap copy of the Petrosky book is, and if I can ever get there during business hours I'm going to buy it.

I have two dots of graphite still stuck in my right hand. One is at the end of my middle finger, and is nearly invisible now, but the other, in the palm, is still a discernable, black dot.

I got these from two occasions of flailing at my father at some point in grammar school. He used to keep a pencil or two point up in his shirt pocket. So my hand came down on those twice and broke off the sharp point of the pencil which embedded itself in me. Damned good thing for me the “lead” isn't really made out of lead!

I don't know that I've ever seen a Blackwing 602 pencil. Sounds good. I'll keep an eye out.

I'm glad you like the program, and I'll do my best to not get kicked off the air. Within reason, of course.

There are a lot of issues that we can't talk about on the air at WBAI. But there is an Internet list called “Free Pacifica!” which you can subscribe to, and these issues are discussed there. If you subscribe to it you will receive, via E-mail, all of the messages which are sent to that list. You will also be able to send messages to the list.

If you want to subscribe to the “Free Pacifica!” list just click on this link and follow the instructions, and you'll be subscribed. Could open your eyes a little bit.

The above list has occasionally produced a high volume of E-mail because of the attention that these issues have drawn. If you would prefer to subscribe to a low volume list that only provides announcements of events related to these issues then subscribe to the FreePac mailing list.

My voice mail number at WBAI is 212-209-2996. Leave a message.

You can also send me E-mail.

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